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Corona Diaries: Nomadic Backpacker Stuck In Kenya, Part 2

Things are getting a little more dire in Naivasha as the pandemic closes in.

Kenya coronavirus
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NAIVASHA, Kenya- There isn’t a total lockdown yet but every few days new rules and restrictions are implemented. The government is reluctant to enforce a total lockdown, as they know people need to be on the streets to trade. Whether buying or selling, trading puts dinner on the table each night.

I went into town to get some food supplies. It had been a few days since I had last ventured out. Going out each day, even if only for 30 minutes sure does help.

I was shocked. Activity on the towns few streets was very much reduced.

Kenya streets coronavirusI took a cup of tea and some ‘mandazi’ at the Hot Plate restaurant where I used to get all my meals when I first arrived in Naivasha. It’s not a fancy place. There are no fancy places. It’s a place where locals come, a ‘hole in the wall’ type place.

Kenya cafeBefore, one girl acted as the cashier and 2 others ran the tables. Now she is alone. Out back there were two cooks and a plate washer. Now one guy is doing everything.

The cafe can’t even be breaking even unless both members of the staff are family and are working for free.

My guys at the guest house are on 50% salary. Four have quit. Naivasha is a town like many in Kenya and, indeed, across the globe which rely on tourism. International and domestic. Most visitors come up from Nairobi, but just before Easter they put up road blocks. And no there is no inter-county travel at all.

I am not sure how the four guys who quit will support themselves. I thought that 50% salary is better than no salary, especially when I am here with just one other guest and those who chose to stay on can spend their days watching YouTube and still get paid. I assume they have some sort of support from family members. But I don’t like to pry.

The other industry here is commercial flowers. They have closed down, as the only goods that are moving are essential items only.

The Hot Plate restaurant is at the epi-center of Naivasha. It’s where the matatus (small mini vans) in normal times would all depart from. They had been operating at 50% capacity, with fares doubled to cover the costs for about 3 weeks. Now there are no departures.

Kenay during coronavirusThere are 47 counties in Kenya. Naivasha is in Nakuru county. As far as I was aware of, travel within the county was not restricted, yet there are no matatus at all, not even to Nakuru town.

The supermarket is pretty empty too, but the shelves are well stocked. There is no panic buying. People live hand to mouth here. They don’t have excess cash to buy a month’s supply. They don’t even have excess cash to buy a week’s supply. They work to put food on the table each night.

One of the markets has re-opened though, with the number of stalls reduced so that social distancing can occur naturally rather than forcing it by restricting numbers.

Hand washing facilities have been set up outside nearly all shops.

Hand washing station in KenyaAnd this is a new addition at the supermarket. This may be Africa but I think they are trying a little harder than Western countries.

Kenya supermarket signThe matatus aren’t running, the hotels are closed. The restaurants around Lake Naivasha are closed. The flower businesses are closed. No one is making much money. People across the globe make their livelihoods from tourism and from the transportation of people and goods. This is having a devastating impact. More so in developing countries — they haven’t got anyone to bail them out. There are no government handouts here.

I have been here five weeks now. There is still one other guest who I have met just once. She is from Tanzania. She works in town and was due to go home but she is still here as she can’t go anywhere. Like me. Like everyone.

The British government is trying hard to get people out. But they are up against it too. Only people in Nairobi have a chance of getting to the airport, as all routes into and out of the capital are blocked. And as the tweet mentions, 70 people didn’t show. And this was before the inter-county travel restrictions were put in place. It’s easy to navigate the curfew. Just get to the airport before 7pm. It’s not rocket science. I hope those 70 had a valid reason!

These evac flights are commercial flights and are not solely for UK nationals. Flights are coming in empty. The crew don’t get off the plane and you need more crew to fly the plane back. That’s why the tickets are expensive. Kenyans have asked why Kenyans can’t come home. The Kenyan embassies around the world have to liaise with local authorities and also with the Kenyan government who put the lockdown on all arrivals and, of course, flights will still be 1000$+ and then they will be forced into 14 days or more quarantine upon arrival. Huge financial implications.

A couple of times I have thought, ‘I should get out of here while I can.’ But now I can’t, even if I wanted to.

Here, I am safe. I’m am living affordably. Just that nagging thing, ‘how long does this shit go on for?’.

Looking on the bright side, there is a bright side?

As soon as the all clear to travel again is given, I am poised to get moving. Uganda is just a day’s travel away. I have the next 3 years of travel pretty mapped out.

The British High commissioner wrote this report about how the UK is helping with Kenya’s supply chain.

Reading this, I am happy that I am here. The UK has a good relationship with Kenya.

I am doing OK. I am still on the road. Not going anywhere, mind you, and I don’t expect to be for quite a while. Yet things could be worse. A lot worse. I could be in DRC. Now that wouldn’t be fun.

Filed under: Africa, Epidemics, Kenya

About the Author:

From a small town north of London, England. Earned my travel money as a waiter in Switzerland, as a courier, as a postman (mailman). Former mountain runner and road cyclist. Permanently on the road now, 95 countries and counting. Passion for long haul overland journeys. Blogs at Nomadic Backpacker. has written 4 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Trevor Warman is currently in: Kenya

23 comments… add one

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  • Sarah April 21, 2020, 2:13 pm

    The lock down & curfew in Kenya seems a lot more relaxed than here in Antigua! But hoping restrictions continue to lift in the coming weeks once they are able to start testing on the island. Over 60% of Antigua is reliant on tourism so they are keen to open safely soon.

    I’m feeling less stuck now I’ve figured out an emergency way off the island if needed, but hopefully don’t need to use it – although the route would be a pretty interesting adventure if I do.

    Three year’s of travel mapped out? Impressive! I can barely forward plan 3 months atm, the plan is changing continuously. But probably have enough places on the ‘to hit’ list to last three years.

    Take care & keep us posted

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  • Trevor Warman April 21, 2020, 3:03 pm

    Thank you Sarah for the comment.

    Well it’s not total lockdown. A slow tightening of the noose as it were. If people can’t stay at home and still insist on going cross country, they ban inter county travel. There was an idea that they would just close down the gas stations so that no one COULD travel.
    If you reduce mini van capacity by 50%, the fares get doubled and not everyone can afford the higher fare, so they get less people who are able to travel. Quite a good method actually.

    The night time curfew is harsh but probably fare. They put curfew violators in 14 day quarantine. And then send them the bill and from what I read,, you don’t wanna end up in one of them.
    Yes, having a way out is soothing for the mind. Im kindda screwed now. Oh well. Crap happens. Gonna be more stories to tell…
    They are running more evac flights. see my next post, coming soon on VBJ. ;))

    Take care out there. Best wishes.

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    • Sarah April 21, 2020, 3:27 pm

      That seems like a smart plan that could work.

      Curfew here started initially at 8pm-6am and then went to 12noon to 7am. They have already jailed a few people for six months for violating curfew and fined others the equivalent of $1850 USD. So they aren’t playing!

      Look forward to more of your stories, I have a lot of time to read right now lol

      Stay safe

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  • Jack April 26, 2020, 6:11 am

    I’m just commenting for two reasons:
    1) I’m bored at 5 am
    2) I appreciate your posts and reading what is happening with you in Kenya right now.

    I know people judge how interested other people are in their content by how many comments they get. Yours is an interesting story and I know nothing about Kenya or Africa so feel like I have nothing to add to the conversation. I just want to say, keep them coming because I find your story interesting.

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    • Trevor Warman April 26, 2020, 7:41 am

      Thank you Jack for the comment. Things must be bad to be commenting at 5am? That ‘s one thing i never do, leave comments at 5am.

      Lol

      Thank you again. Yes i like comments

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    • Trevor Warman April 26, 2020, 8:13 am

      I mean u must be really bored to comment on MY blog at 5am. Plenty of other stuff on Kenya on my own blog if boredom persists

      Hope all is well in Iowa

      Regards

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    • Wade Shepard April 26, 2020, 11:12 am

      Me too.

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      • Trevor Warman April 26, 2020, 11:23 am

        Cheers Wade.

        Lots of stuff on substack … whats going on… some confrontation is what..

        Stainless steel work tops. What is the world coming too?

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        • Wade Shepard April 26, 2020, 11:50 am

          Thanks for pointing that out. Just side step it.

          Haha no kidding! But after working on my lap for two decades these tables are luxury.

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          • Trevor Warman April 26, 2020, 12:27 pm

            Been 2 days working on the Fu**er… lots of name dropping.

            A good answer to a good question, or was it 3?

            https://www.nomadicbackpacker.com/reasons-why-i-travel.html

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            • Wade Shepard April 26, 2020, 1:39 pm

              Cool. Going to check it out now.

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            • Wade Shepard April 26, 2020, 3:01 pm

              Cool post. Your strategy of working at home and then enjoying the journey — like everybody used to do in the old days — is often preferable to working as you go. While there is a romance to having a mobile business, you still need to work each day if you want it to actually make money. There are all kinds of other things to be doing when traveling than working and the cool feeling of being a digital nomad wears off quick — or at least it should.

              Good point also about how locals are often not the best people to ask about travel related topics. It’s incredible how little people know about the places they spend their lives. As you put it, if they never had a reason to go there they probably have no idea… but will never admit this haha.

              Keep blogging daily. Write about the normal nuances of life — like Andy used to — then you will get people hooked. The strategy to traffic is to become a routine for people. Don’t worry about SEO anymore — there really isn’t much you can do to push the levers on this other than writing content that people are searching for. Think, if I wanted to go to this place what would I do a search about? Or what is this thing? What is that food? Describe it. Search engines are answer engines. Provide answers and you will get traffic. But how much is debatable and you need a huge amount of traffic to make any money like this. Travel stories don’t make any money. Honestly, it’s probably not worth it. It’s 100x more difficult than it was when I first started and it was never easy.

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              • Trevor Warman April 27, 2020, 7:39 am

                Yes and now, travel bloggers who normally earn their commission in this genre, that in reality is what is allowing them to stay on the road, are struggling cos who is using booking dot com now. ???

                I heard that one was replacing their travel affiliates with other stuff. Vpn affiliates would be good i guess. And kindle books.

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                • Wade Shepard April 27, 2020, 10:08 am

                  Very true.

                  With the pandemic not much in the travel genre is selling these days. Best to temporarily transition to other sectors. Health is probably good, although it’s getting over-saturated. Online courses would probably be good too.

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  • MRP April 28, 2020, 7:59 am

    Looks like my comment here was eaten by the universe … or is Covid-19 now attacking cyberspace? Anyway, seems like you’re really for the long haul.

    I read that East Africa has again the impending swarms of locusts – eating zillions of potential food crops. Any word of that there yet in the local media?

    Stay sane + safe + drink more beer!

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    • Trevor Warman April 28, 2020, 8:17 am

      Yes my first comment to you went AWOL too. It was there, then it wasnt.

      The locusts disappeared/dispersed. The area was nr Lodwar, Marsabit, Turkana but we had soo much rain . Causing deaths from flash floods.

      Not sure how it will go. KENYA UGANDA border is chaos with the truckers getting tested but we need as this is were many new cases r turning up i believe.

      Havent had a beer in ages . Should get some form the shop. Had some vodka though……

      Any ways keep clear of those PSB Gong-an guys. Glad u got Wei . Can you speak chinese now?

      Keep the posts coming. I re subscribed. Too eager for your ebooks. Lol am starting Ghost Cities of China. ;))
      Trevor

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      • Wade Shepard April 28, 2020, 10:12 am

        AWOL comments? Strange. They’re not getting sent to spam. I guess copy them before sending.

        Thanks for reading Ghost Cities!

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        • Trevor Warman April 29, 2020, 2:30 am

          AWOL comments went to the TRASH . ;))

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          • Wade Shepard April 29, 2020, 10:17 am

            Strange. They did. Let me know if this happens again.

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            • Trevor Warman April 29, 2020, 10:26 am

              I used the F words both times. Didnt see MRPs missing message in the bin though.

              Part 3 in ur e mail inbox finally… power was off all day

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              • Wade Shepard April 29, 2020, 11:57 am

                I removed fuck from our banned words in comments list. You are now free to use the F word until your heart’s content haha.

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                • Trevor Warman April 29, 2020, 12:59 pm

                  Hahha thanks the part 3 post. I tweeted it too and lots of @’s ;))))

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